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Bishop Alexander Joly, who led the French synodal processKTO TV / YouTube


France (LifeSiteNews) — The French bishops’ conference has decided to send a national synthesis of synodal consultations that were held throughout the country since October to Rome without modifying some of its most revolutionary aspects. Pleas for the recognition of women’s work within the church, including by the ordination of a form of deaconesses, access to marriage for Latin rite priests, more Bible meetings and more decision-making by the laity, more “openness” and “listening” were some of the common factors that emerged from the consultations.

In what Jean-Marie Guénois, religious chronicler of the Figaro called an ecclesiastical “Big Bang,” the French Catholic hierarchy failed to recall Catholic doctrine on these and other points, instead stating that they considered the “national synthesis” to be a “binding” document – with the result that they communicated it to Rome as it stands.

This does not mean that the bishops uniformly approve the document in every detail. On the contrary, they met during an extraordinary assembly on June 14 and 15 at the Catholic University of Lyon for a time of “discernment” regarding the answers that were produced by France’s dioceses. They agreed to send an accompanying “cover document” in which they voiced their often revealing concerns.

While the meeting was mostly held behind closed doors, for the first time about one hundred guests, including permanent deacons, representatives of religious orders and many non-clerics, were invited to attend, which led to the validation of the “revolutionary” text. According to the unofficial daily of the French mainstream bishops, one source said that these guests were instrumental in preventing the bishops from imposing their initial decision that involved writing a new version of the national synthesis in order to make it fit for sending to Rome.

La Croix International made clear that the sending of two documents to Rome – the synthesis based on diocesan reports, written by Bishop Alexandre Joly of Troyes and his national team dedicated to the preparation of the upcoming Roman Synod on synodality, and the bishops’ own comments – was the result of “a spectacular turnaround behind the scenes.”

“A first draft” – which was not in the form of a cover letter, but was intended to be a new version of the national synthesis – “was clearly rejected late Tuesday afternoon” during the discussions between bishops and invitees. “This served to highlight the strong assent of all for the national synthesis,” the source said. The synthesis, which was already published last week, centered on the importance of “finding our strength in the Word of God,” the urgency of “proposing signs that speak to society and are credible” and the need “for places of fraternal dialogue.”

“Fraternal” is one of the keywords of the synthesis, which is not surprising given that the questionnaire sent out to the dioceses of the world by the Vatican last fall contains many leading questions. Lists of items presented to local Catholics included references to “speaking out,” “dialogue between the Church and civil society,” “the excluded,” “minorities,” “dialogue with other religions and non-believers,” and the like. Words like “conversion, “mission”, “the sacraments,” “eternal salvation,” “truth,” on the other hand were largely if not entirely absent.

Some of the synthesis’ most remarkable demands are symptomatic of a loss of the sense of meaning of the Holy Eucharist. Its first chapter underlines the need for “recharging one’s batteries in the Word of God,” praising the merits of “gatherings” that can cater for people who “never come to Mass,” especially the poor. One modern fraternity stated: “Perhaps the basis of the Church is people who join to read the Word of God.” A Protestant would not say otherwise.

While “meditating the Scriptures” is seen as a way to answer “our contemporaries’ quest for meaning,” a communiqué by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X noted that many Catholics today lack the basic knowledge of the Catechism that would prevent them from “misinterpreting” the Bible.

In the same chapter, better preaching is demanded, including “homilies by women during Eucharistic celebrations.”

The following chapter, on “Synodality,” suggests that dialogue should become permanent and adds: “This synodal experience is clearly different from an opinion poll: those who took part say how carefully they sought to be led by the Holy Spirit; to this end, they often anchored their changes in meditation on the Scriptures.” However, their “meditation” did not prevent them from demanding impossible changes that are not in line with the Church’s perennial teachings.

As for priests, they are presented in the synthesis as having “problems with relationships,” especially with women, “authoritarianism” and “overbearingness.”

This is where one of the most revolutionary demands is made: “Regular demands appear as to making priestly celibacy a question of free choice on the part of individual priests, so that priestly ordination and marriage may be compatible.”

A following chapter demands that “men and women live out equal baptismal dignity,” and claims that women have “suffered innumerable wounds” at the hands of the Church. Women need more place for “decision-making,” beyond the many services they already render. A group of “women in their thirties” are even quoted as saying that they are “revolted” by the inequalities between men and women from a “very early age;” a minority openly asks for women’s ordination to the priesthood.

Regarding the “governance” of the Church, many diocesan reports blast “clericalism,” asking for “counter-powers” for the laity and “education” to further the “reception of Vatican II.”

Regarding liturgy and the Eucharist, the document states: 

“Many speak of how central the Eucharistic liturgy is to the life of faith of Catholics. Some – such as those who are attached to the 1962 Roman Missal (the ancient form of the rite) – yearn for the celebration of the Mass to respond more fully to the baptized person’s thirst for interiority. The syntheses also relate that the Eucharist is essential to the very constitution of communities. However, the liturgy appears to be a place of tension, between pastoral flexibility and attachment to rituals, between esteem for the richness of liturgical symbols and questions about a language that has become unintelligible for many.”

It is certainly encouraging to see that the traditional Latin Mass was quoted, but this is presented as a “tension” and the chapter concludes with a call to allow girls and women to join liturgical services in the chancel: 

“It is impossible to doubt the true sufferings experienced and the pressing expectations regarding this theme.”

Further on, another theme promoted by the media and many sounds coming from Catholic Church leaders appears with these words: 

“The suffering of those who feel excluded from the communities and/or the sacraments (homosexuals, divorced and remarried persons, etc.), as well as of those who are less affected by such exclusions, is often mentioned.”

The diocese of Toulouse’s report even stated: 

“Any exclusion from the sacraments linked to the state of life causes misunderstanding and sadness and seems to be opposed to the acceptance of all that Christ practiced.”

These are certainly the most shocking aspects of the French synodal synthesis. The bishops’ covering letter wryly notes that “certain subjects” are very absent from the syntheses, such as the “missionary vocation” of the Church.

They add: 

“We also have to ask ourselves why certain Christian spiritual riches are either ignored or devalued, for example, the Eucharist as the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacraments, the consecrated life, the celibacy of priests, the diaconate. We also note that the family as a place for learning about fraternity is not mentioned.”

This actually sounds like an admission of failure: the Catholics who are being asked to mould “the Church of tomorrow” in the name of their sensus ecclesiae, “feeling for the Church,” seem to lack the most elemental truths and knowledge about its meaning, role and salvific action through the sacraments.

The bishops also seem to cave in to the move towards democracy inside the Church with their appeal that “Synodality should become the ordinary lifestyle of the Church.”

The whole synodal exercise in France rested on the shoulders of a national team surrounding Bishop Joly and locally appointed regulators of discussion groups; and the 150,000 or so Catholics who voiced their opinions. They represent about 10 percent of practicing Catholics in France where the number of churchgoers has fallen almost to rock bottom, especially since COVID lockdowns. A large proportion of these hail from the “boomer generation,” that experienced the May 1968 political revolution and the liturgical revolution that followed Vatican II.

It is this generation that largely failed to pass on the Faith and that is now clamoring for the Church to turn its back on many of its teachings in the moral and social sphere, and that sees the younger people who want traditional liturgical forms as creators of “tension.”

In their cover letter, the French bishops deplore the fact that the “synodal process did not attain the whole people of God in its diversity, in particular the younger generations.”

These are often more traditional than older Catholics, but it would seem that “synodality” requires that their elders have the upper hand. This might make sense if the elders were actually upholding the tradition which the Church must guard and transmit, but it is the opposite that is occurring.